Prominent former senior government officials and leading academics are calling for Asian nations to work together in order to ensure the global economy bounces back from COVID-19.

The group, which includes former advisers to the governments of China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia and think tank leaders, is calling on nations from the region to coordinate financial, trade, public health and food security policies in the wake of the coronavirus. 

The Asian strategy for recovery and reconstruction after COVID-19 is co-authored by Professor Peter Drysdale from The Australian National University’s Asian Bureau of Economic Research and architect of APEC.

“This plan brings together a powerful group of former senior officials and prominent academics to help steer the global economy to recovery after the savage impact of COVID-19,” Professor Drysdale said. “And the key to success is cooperation among Asian nations.

“We are calling for ASEAN to convene a regional leaders conference that would also include ASEAN +6 dialogue partners, including Australia, India and China. 

“This meeting would move rapidly on six key objectives, among them expanded bilateral currency swap arrangements to strengthen regional safety nets; the development, production and equitable distribution of diagnostic tests, a vaccine and treatments across Asia; and keeping medical and food markets open.

“The proposal aims to avoid the danger of the region’s individual nations acting in narrow self-interest with the almost certain unintended consequence of a deeper and prolonged economic downturn.

“Equally important is developing a regional and multilateral framework within which China will be welcome to contribute rather than let Beijing work alone.”

Other immediate actions in the plan include agreeing to protocols for the movement of people to help restart international travel and commerce, the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and expanding the digital transformation of health management inspired by COVID.

According to Professor Drysdale, Asian economies, which were set to overtake the rest of the world’s total combined GDP this year, are crucial to ensuring the global economy successfully navigates the crisis. He says if Asian countries coordinate their response to the coronavirus they would also influence responses by the US and Europe.

“Without international cooperation and coordination, the world is facing a prolonged health crisis and lasting economic stagnation on a scale not seen since the Great Depression,” Professor Drysdale said.

“Asian economies will be central to global economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

“We must seize the opportunity the virus has provided to secure cooperation, economic development and strengthening of common ties in Asia. This will be good for Asia, good for Australia and good for the world.”

The Australian contributors to the plan are also calling for the Morrison Government to join the regional leaders conference.

“It’s essential for Australia to join the leaders conference and be seen actively cooperating with ASEAN and its key neighbours such as Japan, India, South Korea and China to meet the health and economic challenge posed by the virus,” Professor Drysdale said.

“The Morrison Government’s success in dealing with the virus at home will, in the eyes of the many former officials supporting the call for action, give it significant influence within the grouping.”

Contributors to the plan include former Indonesian finance minister Chatib Basri, former member of China’s central bank committee Yiping Huang, executive director of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation secretariat Rebecca Sta Maria, and secretary of the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Heather Smith.

The Asian strategy for recovery and reconstruction after COVID-19 is available online

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